Plénitudes

Following my invitation as a guest on the Wine Berserkers forum, here is the second question I selected, asked by Alan Weinberg:

How much age do you like to see on a bottle of Dom Pérignon before you drink it–peak or ideal is what I’m looking for. And what are your favorite vintages–any century? What are the next vintages planned–after 02?

Regarding the first question, it of course depends on whether we are considering the bottle before or after disgorgement.

After disgorgement, we do the utmost so that Dom Pérignon can be enjoyed right after release, not only defining carefully the timing of disgorgement but also waiting for at least another 6 months before releasing the bottles. From that point onward the wine will keep developing gracefully for at least 20 years, if not more. As for myself, I particularly enjoy Dom Pérignon 3 to 5 years after disgorgement.

If we now consider the wine on its lees (therefore while still undergoing yeast maturation, also called autolysis), I can see 3 windows of opportunity, or plénitudes: the first one 8 years after the vintage (which is when Dom Pérignon Vintage is released); followed by a second plénitude between 12 and 15 years after the vintage (which is the first Œnothèque release); and finally a third plénitude 30-40 years after the vintage (which leads to a second Œnothèque release, for example 1969 or 1971 right now). After this point I would say that the wines evolve only extremely slowly, with a steadier development curve.

Regarding the second question, I could answer it in two different ways. Either by mentioning the most recognized vintages, based on pedigree (e.g. 1921, 34, 47, 55, 59, all our vintages in the 60s, 73, 75, 76, 82, 85, 90, 96, 02). Or by considering the attachment I have for certain vintages, which is of a more intimate nature, typically due to the challenge they created: some of the time in the vineyard like 1969 (strict sorting of the grapes to a satisfactory quality) or 1980 (with very late borderline harvest); or in the cellar such as 1988 (as sharp as a razor blade, with the risk of being hollow on the midpalate—fortunately we managed to avoid that…) or 1996 (we had to master the impetuous and provocative character of the vintage, including the necessity to resist the temptation to incorporate some oxidative, forward developing Pinot Noir elements despite their charming nature).

Coming to the last question, all I can say is that the 2000s were an exciting decade, very generous with all the regions of France. On a purely technical basis we could have declared all the vintages except 2001. However we chose not to, but you will have to be patient to discover our decisions!

(You can find all the questions and answers on the special archive forum on Wine Berserkers.)

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